Just over a week ago I had the experience of preaching for the first time via a live stream.
Technically this was a fairly straightforward experience.
Yesterday I joined a live stream as a listener. There were a few more (resolvable) technical difficulties yesterday.
In the afternoon I preached again through live stream at another church.
We could not have anticipated that when we arranged for this sermon series on 1 Peter to start today with a sermon on being exiles who are scattered that it would coincide with the Sunday when nearly every church in the UK would not be gathering as normal.
Today we are all digital exiles, scattered in our homes, with the preacher speaking to a camera. Preaching by live feed is an odd experience in one way, but it reminded me that I always need to preach by faith- faith that the Lord can take my words and use them in lives that I cannot even see.
There is something disorientating about all of this. We’re not in our normal place. We’re out of routine.
There is something special about gathering with people. We are social beings. Most of us don’t cope well with enforced social distancing. And as I look around today I echo the words from Star Trek: ‘It’s Church Jim but not as we know it!’
The church was born in less than ideal circumstances. It grew against the odds. It requires a robust mindset that trusts at a time of change in a God who never changes, the one who is the fixed point in a changing universe.
I have been thinking about the pros and cons of the live feed approach to preaching.
There will be a period of trial and error in which both the opportunities and challenges of the digital medium are assessed and thought through.
People do get to connect with each other in some way. Yesterday morning’s feed contained running comments, including some about the need to turn up the sound!
It’s a way to keep God’s word before a congregation.
It provides a useful focus for praying together as a church. This has been a distinctive ingredient. This made the sermon more a part of a whole service.
The connection is virtual. It’s not the same as being there, with all the accompanying face to face contact, coffee time chat, handshakes and hugs. This is a way of gathering the church, but it’s more hit and miss.
It’s more difficult to be really present. It’s a little bit easier to “leave the room”. There are more distractions: what’s going on the screen, on my computer or in my house? We need good clear visuals that are refreshed frequently to help with the listening process.
The internet is busier than it might be on a Sunday morning; this does cause some connection and buffering issues. In areas where internet speeds are unpredictable, an early morning recording on a Sunday that’s then made available to download might be a safer option.
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season…” (2 Timothy 4: 2)
(This blog has appeared as Digital Exiles on the site: MannaMañana).